The number of death sentences imposed in the U.S. and the number of executions carried out have declined sharply over the last five years, says the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that opposes capital punishment. The Los Angeles Times also cites a Gallup Poll in May showing that the number of Americans favoring a verdict of life without the possibility of parole over the death penalty has increased in the last seven years. “By every measure, the death penalty in the U.S. has been in decline since 1999,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the center.
Five death row inmates have been exonerated so far this year – two in Louisiana and one each in Illinois, North Carolina and Texas – for a total of 117 people set free since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment. Robin Maher of the American Bar Association’s death penalty representation project, said, “Juries are more reluctant to impose the death sentence for a variety of reasons, prime among them a parade of wrongfully convicted people leaving death row.” Charles Hobson of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation – which favors capital punishment attributed the decline to the fact that the violent crime rate has gone down and people feel safer. He said budget crises facing many states also may have caused some prosecutors to become more selective about seeking the death penalty.